Dear Charlene: “How Do I Forgive Myself?”
Writer and actor Charlene deGuzman answers your questions about love, loss, and loneliness.
Hi everyone! I’m Charlene deGuzman!
I’m a writer and actor in Los Angeles. Some of you may know me as @charstarlene on Twitter, or maybe you’ve heard about my feature film, Unlovable. (Now streaming everywhere! Check out the trailer here.)
I’ve teamed up with FLOOD to offer you all advice, support, and hope! Every month I’ll be answering any of your heart’s questions on life, love, happiness, and any of the deepest places in between.
Let me introduce myself. I was depressed at age eleven. I never thought I could ever feel happy or lovable. I spent my whole life trying to escape the pain. My life was a mess until I got fed up and did something about it. And now, as a recovered sex and love addict, I am the happiest and healthiest I’ve ever been.
I’m here to listen and help. Ask me anything at email@example.com. Your identity will remain anonymous.
And if you need one-on-one guidance, check out the work I do on charlenejoy.com. I would love to help!
Two years ago I ended up in a situation with someone I really liked that was not completely consensual. It was my first sexual experience and I was twenty-five, so mixed in with the feelings of hurt over what took place between us was a good dose of embarrassment and shame. To top it off, he was the first guy I felt a real connection with, and as much as I recognize that what was happening between us wasn’t the best thing for me, I haven’t found anyone since who I’ve felt that strongly for—and on my worst days, I don’t think I ever will again. Every time I think I’ve made peace with the experience, the mixed-up feelings, and the memories left behind, it bubbles up again—the pain and longing as fresh and acute as if it happened yesterday. The funny thing is, I forgave him a long time ago. I just can’t seem to forgive myself: for the part I played in how things started and developed and the way in which I decided to remove myself from the situation. I was so angry and I said things I couldn’t believe. I still feel so lost after all this time. Will the hurt ever stop? Will my feelings for him ever stop? How do I forgive myself? How do I move forward?
I receive a lot of emails asking me how to get over someone. Breakup help and pursuing emotionally unavailable people are certainly the hot topics in my inbox. I can’t reply to every email, but it was important to me to reply to yours.
I wanted to let you know that I relate to your situation, on many levels. In fact, I have cried to my friends multiple times that “it was the first guy I felt a real connection with.” I also truly believed I would never find someone like that again. And of course, there was always a way to blame it on myself. It always felt impossible to move on. Even if the person wasn’t good for me.
I share this with you just to let you know that I’ve been there. But what I really wanted to offer you, and anyone else reading this who might need it, is that the hurt you feel that won’t go away actually has nothing to do with him, or the relationship, or what you did or didn’t do. Yes, breakups can be painful and challenging, so I don’t want to diminish that. Loss is a real thing and grieving is a required part of the healing process. But that pain that doesn’t go away, that attachment, that longing—especially for something, that in reality, wasn’t the best for you—is a wound that was always there, even before you met him, and it is now triggered by the loss, asking for you to tend to it.
It is the need for love. And ultimately, it must come from you first. No one can fix this but you.
“That attachment, that longing—especially for something, that in reality, wasn’t the best for you—is a wound that was always there, even before you met him, and it is now triggered by the loss, asking for you to tend to it.”
Until you heal the wound, you will find yourself experiencing this pain, over and over again, through this person, the next person, some other person, some other loss, whoever or whatever becomes the avenue for you to express it.
Some information I want to reflect back on is when you said, “I recognize that what was happening between us wasn’t the best thing for me.” And what I want to remind you of today is: you deserve the best. What needs tending to right now is the wound that gives you the belief that you do not.
You deserve a healthy relationship that is built on a foundation of love, trust, and respect. Not one that begins as—as you put it—“not completely consensual.”
Be open to forgiveness for yourself by considering that everything happened the way it needed to happen, in order for you to learn, grow, and heal. Every relationship teaches us something, serves a purpose. And every challenge is just an opportunity to love and forgive ourselves deeper and deeper.
It is this self-love that will move you forward.
And if you find it feels impossible, that just means you need support. There is therapy, counseling, and support groups available.
And if you find yourself unable to move forward—if you’re missing out on life, experiences, events, friends, or work because of your pain, if you can’t stop thinking and obsessing about this person, talking about this person, or online stalking, if you’re harming yourself or self-destructing, I would research “love addiction” and see if any of it resonates. There is support available that will help you so much. I’ve been there, and it doesn’t need to be this way. You’re not alone.
You deserve to see what’s on the other side. FL